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Imagination, a prerequisite for spiritual enjoyment, only works in relation to things of the past. We imagine something that is not actually in front of us. The senses, prerequisites for spiritual awakening, only work in relation to things that exist in the present. We perceive through the senses something that exists and stimulates the imagination.

Photography captures this relationship between the past and the present, between the imagination and the senses, in a magical way. The photographer’s observation of a subject in the present is capable of bringing to the surface or, to be precise, to just below the surface, memories and references which are incorporated indirectly in the final result. The more abstract and seemingly remote the relationship between the subject that stimulated the senses and the one that awakened memories and imagination, the more likely is the emotional charge of the photograph. The closer the subject in the present is to the object of the imagination, the greater the risk of ending up with a boring and restricted depiction of the imagination. The tree that the photographer sees and takes a photograph of becomes dramatically more realistic (always as a tree), if it ‘carries’ (through the photographer’s imagination) memories of and references to something else, for example children's toys. But if taking a photograph of an old man, for example, endeavours to bring back memories of the photographer’s own father (in theory perfectly reasonable and feasible), then the result is unlikely to have a strong impact, since in essence it will simply be the transcription of an image from the past to its modern version. In other words, it will be difficult to transcend the subject, because there will be no inner dialogue and confrontation between two subjects of different time and identity, which are able to meet in a photograph through the photographer’s mediation.

The success of the dialogue between the past and the present requires conscious observation and subconscious memory and imagination. In short, the photographer does not depict his imagination or his memories, but only the object in the reality he observes. However, the imagination and the memories charge almost automatically, through a mechanism of cultivation and sensitivity, the representation of the actual with the personal details of a past exclusive to the photographer’s own (visible and invisible) world. The more effortlessly and unconsciously this osmosis takes place, the stronger the emotional effect. For example, the smells of an Athenian evening may subconsciously evoke in the photographer a state of euphoria associated with seemingly forgotten beautiful moments, to the extent that taking a photograph of a girl walking down the street talks more about beauty and emotion than about the specific model’s real beauty.

This undoubtedly complex function of photography, always moving between two levels, the present and the past, what we see and what we imagine, the outside world and the inner world, demands absolute respect for the remarkable simplicity of the photographic medium. In other words, we should understand and accept that a tree photographed by Eugene Atget or another photographed by Ansel Adams is nothing more nor less than a tree, but that they express significant differences in content, due to what each photographer ‘carries’ and instinctively invokes when clicking his camera.